The Institute Letter Fall 2019

Includes a variety of articles by Faculty and Members exploring bewilderment and clarity, the changing faces of biology, the social life of DNA, movement politics, race after technology, discrimination and Western democracy, modern racism and medieval race-thinking, academic freedom, partial differential equations, the possible unification of mathematics and physics, and the singular adventures of the late Professor Jean Bourgain. Also featuring conversations with James Peebles, 2019 Nobel Prize Laureate, and several current Members. Explore a collection of articles spanning the last decade to today in the Ideas section.

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James Peebles, Member (1977–78) and Visitor (1990–91, 1998–99) in the School of Natural Sciences, has been awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics for his “contributions to our understanding of the...

Lia Medeiros, a Member and astrophysics postdoctoral fellow in the School of Natural Sciences, is interested in using astronomical objects and phenomena to test fundamental theories of physics...

Gossuin de Metz's "Image du Monde"

To be bewildered is, literally, to be lost in the woods. Not lost in the beautiful and well-marked paths that wind through the Institute forest but trapped and disoriented in a dangerous place with the fear that you might never escape. The...

Arnold Levine converses with several students in a circle

In the summer of 1968, a young, newly minted assistant professor moved from a postdoctoral position at Caltech to Princeton University. Schooled and trained over the previous seven years in the reductionist approaches of Watson and Cricks’...

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Like many Americans, my family and I were riveted by the Roots miniseries when it first aired in January 1977. I vividly recall sitting in front of the television with my mother, father, sister, and two brothers, watching the story of Alex...

On February 13, 1960, students line the counter of a dime store in Greensboro, North Carolina, in protest of the store’s refusal to serve them.

Originally published in 1971, Political Action: A Practical Guide to Movement Politics by Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus in the Institute’s School of Social Science, was republished by New York Review of Books in...

Ruha Benjamin speaks during an After Hours conversation at IAS

I spent part of my childhood living with my grandma just off Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. My school was on the same street as our house, but I still spent many a day trying to coax kids on my block to “play school” with me on my grandma’s...

Michael G. Hanchard during a 2014 Social Science seminar on "Sociology’s Promise"

As sociologists have reminded us, race, like power, is a relational concept. A so-called race is invariably defined in distinction to other presumed races. Where racial reasoning and the practice of comparison have combined in modern politics is...

Book cover for "Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom" by Joan Wallach Scott

In my lifetime, academic freedom has been repeatedly under threat. In the 1950s, in the McCarthy era, hundreds of teachers were interrogated about their political beliefs and summarily fired, whether or not those beliefs had anything to do with...

Book cover for "Black Metaphors" by Cord J. Whitaker

In the late Middle Ages, Christian conversion could wash a black person’s skin white—or at least that is what happens when a black sultan converts to Christianity in the late thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century English romance the King of...

In 2019–20, Cord J. Whitaker, Member in the School of Historical Studies and Associate Professor at Wellesley College, is interested in the history and development of race...

Camillo De Lellis speaks at the blackboard

A variety of systems in natural sciences are described through physically measurable quantities that depend on “independent variables.” For instance, we routinely measure the pressure and the temperature of the air in the Earth’s atmosphere, and...

In 2019–20, Chris J. Maddison, Member in the School of Mathematics and a Senior Research Scientist at DeepMind, is developing methods for machine learning and exploring...

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By the twentieth century, mathematics had advanced into rather abstract realms, transcending its origins, which had been largely driven by questions closer to the natural world. Physics on the other hand, especially after the development of...

arXiv.org logo

In 1989, Joanne Cohn, a physicist then at the Institute for Advanced Study, began distributing TeX files of string theory papers via email. By August of 1991, the email list had grown to 180 physicists—an...

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There are two labyrinths of the human mind: one concerns the composition of the continuum, and the other the nature of freedom, and both spring from the same source—the infinite. —Baron von Leibniz...